Caitlin Trussell with Augustana Lutheran Church Denver on March 22, 2020
[sermon begins after the Bible reading]
John 9:1-41 (but read Chapter 10 too) **First 9 verses are here; the whole reading is at the end of the sermon.
John 9:1-9 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.”
“Here’s mud in your eye!” It’s is an old-timey drinking toast that wishes happiness to fellow drinkers. Some think the toast has origins in today’s healing story about Jesus and the man born blind. Although the toast isn’t in scripture, it’s easy to picture it happening. And, for many of us, in this ever expanding socially distant time, it’s easy to picture and deeply miss the light-hearted, celebratory feels that were happening until recently. The story of the man born blind bridges the social distance between the gutter and everyday life in community. I didn’t read all those verses out loud today but you may want to check out the full reading and cruise right on into Chapter 10 while you’re at it. Because the man was launched from isolated begging back into full community. It’s a poignant rags-to-reconciliation story for him. The gospel in one spitty-mud story. You know, that gospel, the good news that there is nothing you can do or not do to make God love you any more or any less. “Here’s mud in your eye” to the happiness of that good news!
The good news is what Jesus’ followers, those curious disciples, are trying to figure out when they ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, (he was born blind) so that God’s works might be revealed in him.” There’s a messed-up translation into English here that makes it sound like suffering was inflicted by God to reveal God’s works. The Greek doesn’t include significant words that appear in the English and adds punctuation that isn’t Greek either. A closer translation from the Greek reads:
“Neither he nor his parents sinned. In order that God’s works might be revealed in him, we must work the works of him.” I’m gonna repeat it so you can hear it again.
“Neither he nor his parents sinned. In order that God’s works might be revealed in him, we must work the works of him.”
Jesus directly answers the disciples’ question – it’s not about God’s reaction to our sin. This reminder is important because it’s on people’s minds. A few days ago, someone wondered what message God is sending through the coronavirus. This question pops across media like a beach ball across a full stadium. But, similar to the disciples in today’s story, it’s the wrong question. Jesus goes on to remind them and us that each moment is an opportunity for God’s works to be revealed. It’s about God drawing people back into relationship with each other, like the man to his community, and back into relationship with God. It’s not difficult but, oh, we make it so hard. We’re the ones who want people to get what we think they deserve. We’re the ones who aren’t loving our enemies and praying for them. I’ve seen those tweets wishing coronavirus on people who’ve dropped the policy ball. Enough already. Speak truth to power, work the policy arena, love your neighbor, and love your enemy as you pray for them.
Jesus’ posture to the people around him is the posture he calls the church to take when doing God’s work. Jesus’ posture in this story doesn’t unite everyone in a round of Kumbaya and unanimous agreement (which you’ll find if you keep reading). Jesus’ posture across the story points us to the continued work of opening the fold when our instinct is to collapse inward and self-protect. In practical terms, the continued work of opening the fold are the ways we stay connected virtually, over the phone, by our generosity to those in need, dropping groceries to our oldest folks, and more. It’s energizing, I can feel it, even as I say those possibilities and as wedream them together. Here’s mud in your eye! (Just to be clear, though, don’t go be putting any spitty-mud into anyone’s eyes right now.)
That weird, spitty-mud moment so perfectly speaks into our moment as we struggle to stay connected through fear and physical distancing. We are still able to reassure each other, and the world, that God’s love is for all of us no matter what we do or don’t do. We remain valuable and beloved children of God regardless of our fear, our bad decisions, or our risk category for surviving a corona infection. The reactions and rhetoric during these times can make it harder to even remember God’s promises, much less be reassured by them.
So be reminded once more…God takes insignificant things and dignifies humanity with them. God creates life from dust. Dust! In this moment with the man born blind, we are reminded that the life force that created us is bound to our fragility in the person of Jesus. We heard a few weeks ago on Ash Wednesday, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The whoosh of life, roaring like a river in between our dusty origin and our dusty end, is a gift to experience – even when we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” I’ve buried too many people who wanted one more day, to ever disdain the gift even in the worst of times. But I’ve also learned that facing our end, in whatever form that will take, does not make us special. It makes us human. We so easily forget in the face of fear and trauma that our humanity, our fragility, is met by God in love through the person of Jesus, who connects us to each other and to God. For that and for all that God is doing, we can say, “Here’s mud in your eye!” And amen.
And now receive this blessing.
With the Lord as your shepherd, may you not be in want.
May your heart be quieted as your soul is restored.
May your fear be comforted even through the darkest valley.
And may goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life as the Lord + dwells with you your whole life long. Amen.
 Historically Speaking. “Here’s Mud in Your Eye!” https://idiomation.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/mud-in-your-eye/
 Rolf Jacobson, Professor of Old Testament, Luther Seminary. Podcast on John 9:1-41 for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. https://www.workingpreacher.org/brainwave.aspx?podcast_id=1240
 Matthew 5:44 [Jesus said] …But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…
 Joy J. Moore, Associate Professor of Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary. Podcast on John 9:1-41 for the Fourth Sunday in Lent. https://www.workingpreacher.org/brainwave.aspx?podcast_id=1240
 The Psalm reading for today is Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
 The blessing is based on Psalm 23 in the previous footnote.
John 9:1-41 As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, 7 saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. 8 The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” 13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And they were divided. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” He said, “He is a prophet.” 18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; 21 but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” 24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,’ your sin remains.